Hospitality is something you only seem to know when you feel it. It’s difficult to articulate. Less than a third of the high-end restaurant experience is spent actually eating, which is why hospitality is so important. Restaurants are not in the food business, they are in the hospitality business.

Waiters and smiles and someone to help with your coat are all part of the bigger picture (hospitality is, after all, in the details). Personal connections with guests are imperative to fostering hospitality, but it isn’t just one or two interactions; it’s an atmosphere. But nothing drives the overall ethos more than a perfect hello.

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Here's what a few restaurants had to say about saying hello and goodbye to their guests:

Saying Hello

“So many things can happen during that first exchange. A simple hello can not only convey appreciation but it can show the guest that we are there to attend to your needs from the moment they walk.  Are you on a time crunch? Is there a special need for seating that you have?  A birthday or special occasion you want us to recognize?  If our welcome message is attentive, warm and with dedication to your visit, the more comfortable the guest can be in truly asking for what they want out of the experience.”
--Jon McDaniel, beverage director, Acanto (#7 in hospitality in Chicago)

“Every guest that walks in the door is unique and we want to provide them with a unique experience. It’s more important for our staff to greet each guest in a way that matches the experience they’re expecting.”
--Xandre Borghetti, general manager, Blue Hill (#7 in hospitality in New York)

“It is always important to greet with a smile and welcoming atmosphere no matter what time in service or how busy the restaurant might be. We always try to vary our greeting and to personalize the experience. We have a number of regular guests who we like to welcome back to the restaurant or greet by name. We may acknowledge that someone has noted a special occasion for the evening as part of the greeting, for example letting them know that we have a nice table set up for their anniversary.”
--Sue Lim, assistant general manager, Monsieur Benjamin (#6 in hospitality in San Francisco)

“At the best restaurants a good greeting is expected. Ironically, it often times often goes unnoticed. But people will always remember a bad greeting.”
--Xandre Borghetti, general manager, Blue Hill (#7 in hospitality in New York)

“That first impression, and a great greeting, is absolutely critical to the identity of a restaurant. It shows we understand how to set a tone for the experience: you will be appreciated, welcomed, cared for, and your presence cherished by the staff. That first impression indicates that the restaurant has created a culture of hospitality that will be evident in every interaction throughout your meal.”
--Jon McDaniel, beverage director, Acanto (#7 in hospitality in Chicago)

Source: Monsieur Benjamin. 

Source: Monsieur Benjamin. 

All About the Feels

“A welcoming message is more about imparting a feeling than information. I am inviting them in, and letting them know I am receptive to whatever they want to tell me about what they are looking for in their dining experience, whether a quick bite at the bar, or a leisurely multi-course dinner.”
--Sue Lim, assistant general manager, Monsieur Benjamin (#6 in hospitality in San Francisco)

"We have a very small crew and we spend a lot of hours together. We are super comfortable with each other and within our restaurant. It is the same five people working the floor any given night. The bond we share and our familiarity in our space make it really natural for us to welcome guests to our home.”
--Matthew Abbick, general manager, Atera (#1 in hospitality in New York)

“When someone seems genuinely happy to see you, and projects warmth and personal care from the very first interaction, it really sets the tone for the whole experience—you are immediately reassured that you will be well taken care of. Conversely, a negative first impression can be incredibly difficult to shake off, even when followed up by excellent service in the dining room.”
--Sue Lim, assistant general manager, Monsieur Benjamin (#6 in hospitality in San Francisco)

“We always try to remember is that each greeting or welcome message can be interpreted very differently depending on the guest. Being flexible and reading the guest can help.”
--Xandre Borghetti, general manager, Blue Hill (#7 in hospitality in New York)

“Giving a consistent approach to each guest is really important to how we operate.  We are in the business of creating regulars; which can mean once a year or 5 times a week.  We want your first impression to be our appreciation and enthusiasm for your visit, as if you were coming over to a friend’s house or, in the case of Acanto, like you were visiting your Nonna who is just so happy to welcome you into her home and her kitchen!”
--Jon McDaniel, beverage director, Acanto (#7 in hospitality in Chicago)

"Michael Stein our DJ/Doorman is awesome with remembering our regulars' favorite bands, wedding songs, etc. He times them into his playlists and is standing by at that moment when they recognize their tunes with his warm smile that says 'this one is for you'.”
--Mattew Abbick, general manager, Atera (#1 in hospitality in New York)

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Adios!

“How a guest leaves is an indicator of the overall experience, which drives return visits. Someone who responds to our goodbye with their own enthusiasm and thanks is someone we may likely see again. And it is important to punctuate the meal with a final goodbye and thanks, whether from their server as the guest gets up, or the host or manager as they get to the door.”
--Sue Lim, assistant general manager, Monsieur Benjamin (#6 in hospitality in San Francisco)

“Any restaurant can grill a good hamburger, cook some pasta, or make a salad, but it is the staff and the experience which brings people back time and time again. We hear from our guests on a daily basis that they love coming back because of how they feel when they enter and how they talk about the experience when they leave. It’s a culture that we have created in our restaurants from our owner to our bussers and everyone in between.”
--Jon McDaniel, beverage director, Acanto (#7 in hospitality in Chicago)

“It goes without saying that if a guest leaves feeling extremely happy and comfortable they are more likely to return. Some of this is out of the control of the restaurant—someone may simply be having a bad day—but there's always an opportunity to turn things around and change someone's experience!”
--Xandre Borghetti, general manager, Blue Hill (#7 in hospitality in New York)